"Women in Audio" was the title of the panel discussion, the panel consisting of four women of varied backgrounds who have been in the audio business for some time (left to right): Anna Popova (Conceptas cables), Agata Mossop (Lenbrook Industries), Gabi van der Kliej-Rijnveld (Crystal and Siltech cables), and Angie Lisi (American Sound and Angie's Audio Corner retailers, and AudioPathways, distributor). The lively discussion covered a variety of topics, including whether male customers tend to "test" female sales staff on their technical knowledge (the answer: yes, but if you know your stuff they will respect you), and how to attract more women to participate in the audiophile hobby (the incorporation of music into a couple's or family's lifestyle had broad support).
One of the most memorable musical events of SSI 2013 was the "live-plus-recorded" mini-concert by cellist Vincent Bélanger, presented by MBL. There were several of these every day of the show; Art Dudley wrote about it in an earlier blog posting. I had attended one of these events last year, and ended up playing the celloafter a fashion. This time the special guest was Stereophile publisher Keith Pray, and, as you can see in the picture, he had a great time.
At SSI I had the opportunity to hear the slightly more comfortable cousin of the Definitive StudioMonitor 45 loudspeaker that recently impressed Stephen Mejias: the same company's StudioMonitor 65 ($1000/pair). Partnered with a 150Wpc Acurus 2002 integrated amplifier and Bel Canto CD player, the 65s were exceptionally well balanced and pleasantly explicit on Diana Krall's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." I added it, on the spot, to my cumulative mental list of good-quality affordable loudspeakers.
The wigs, that is: The reliably beautiful women of Montreal’s annual Salon Son et Image have, for 2013, traded their signature blue wigs for blue slacks and a trace of blue hair dye. This morning they showed off their fetching new look while looking for and fetching my press badge, just two hours before the start of the show’s trade day. Salon Son et Image, at the Montreal Hilton Bonaventure, opens to the public on Friday, March 22, and runs through Sunday.
One of the best events at every SSI is the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to two individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the industry. This is the Oscar of the consumer audio industry, and I've always found these presentations quite touching. That was certainly true at SSI 2013. Angie Lisi, who owns two stores (American Sound and Angie's Audio Corner) in the Toronto area, and is the owner of Audio Pathways, a distribution company, has been in the business for over 30 years (she started when she was 19), and has not lost any of her passion for high-quality reproduction of music. She was introduced by Adrienne Surtees (left in the photo above) and presented with the award by Sarah Tremblay (right). It was a very moving moment, and I was glad that I was able to capture it with my camera.
You might think that this is a photo of mother and daughter attending SSI 2013, but that wouldn't be correct. The woman on the left is pianist/vocalist Anne Bissonwho I hope will be performing at some point during the showand the young girl is Alexandra, Sarah Tremblay's daughter. A photogenic pair, n'est ce pas?
Arcam, the British company that brought to market the first outboard D/A converter for domestic-audio applications in 1989, exhibited a couple of their newest variations on the digital-processor theme. Seen on static display in the room of Erikson Consumer AudioCanadian distributors for Arcam and Missionwas the new Arcam airDAC (left, ca $750), which uses AirPlay to allow perfectionist-quality wireless streaming from iPads, iPhones, and iPods. On the right is the similarly new Arcam irDAC (price to be determined), a remote-control 24/192 D/A whose innards are based on those of the company’s popular D33 processor.
What with CES a little more than two months ago, and the Chicago AXPONA show just two weeks ago, it was difficult for SSI 2013 to claim new product introductions. Typically, the most they could claim was "First time in Canada." But there was at least one product introduction that was billed as World Premiere: the Arteluthe Satie, the entry-level speaker in the company's AirForce line, made entirely in Montreal. It's a fully active design, with two built-in 175W amplifiers in each speaker, no passive elements in the signal path, high sensitivity, and claimed 30Hz20kHz bandwidth. All this technology, and only $7999/pair. There are two other speakers in the line: the Alegria and the Kantante, both fully active, with a top price of $15,000. The photo shows designer Robert Gaboury.
Atoll paired up with ProAc, assembling a system that, knowing something about these brands, I would guess would be a fine-sounding one, but it was only on passive display. Not the most effective way to attract new consumers, I'd say. The star of this system was the ProAc Tablette Anniversary ($2295/pair), the latest version of a speaker that has had enormous following over the years, and was combined with the Atoll CD30 CD player ($899) and Atoll IN30 itegrated amp ($799).
When Bernard Brien started his company BIS a number of years ago, the refurbishing of vintage electronics comprised the bulk of his businessbut over time, he says, he was struck by the sonic weaknesses of older wiring, and the potential for improvement by swapping it for new. A peripheral involvement in aeronautics led Brien to discover the suitability of that industry’s cabling for audio purposes: “It has low mass, low resistance, high bandwidth, and, especially, low mass,” he says, “and it isn’t very expensive.” Brien also touted the simplicity of his products with a phrase, the alliteration of which is lost in translation: “C’est un fil, pas un filtre.” Bien sur!
One doesn’t normally think of a private concert by a gifted recording artist as a particularly bad way to start the day, but. . .
On Saturday morning at SSI, I stepped into the Oracle Audio room just in time for owner Jacques Reindeau to invite me to hear a few selections from the album Blue Mind by the Montreal-based composer and chanteuse Anne Bisson, played on an almost all-Oracle systemwith the artist standing in front of me, singing along with her recorded self.
Designed by Hans Deutsch (no relation), made in Vienna, Brodmann Acoustics speakers come from the "musical instrument" rather than the "sound reproducer" tradition, rejecting the use of filters and damping materials to minimize distortion and unwanted speaker cabinet resonances. The theory may be controversial, but the Brodmann VC 7 ($25,000/pair) , with Electrocompaniet electronics, sounded superb, with great clarity, precise imaging, and, yes, a very "musical" sound.
The second Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Brian Russell, President of Bryston (right side in the photo), the presentation made by Michel Girard (left). Brian is a big, tough guy, so I figured we wouldn't see him cryingbut I think he came awful close when he said that he owes his achievement to each and every member of the Bryston team.
When Bryston's Model T speaker was introduced at SSI 2012, it was in the form of a prototype, on passive display. From a comment that I've seen by James Tanner (who headed up the design team for the Model T), at one point it was not clear whether this was going to be a commercial product or just a personal reference. But now it's full steam ahead for a line of Bryston speakers. Model T is available in three versions: the basic passive model, $6495/piar, the Model T Signature (outboard passive crossover, with custom-made air-core chokes and proprietary film capacitors, $7495/pair), and an active version ($9495/pair, requires six channels of amplification, not included). Other speakers in the line are the Middle T ($4600/pair), mini t, as well as home-theater-oriented speakers, a sub, and in-wall and on-wall speakers. Most of these are available now, and others are slated for shipping in May and a few in Q3. Bryston is definitely serious about their speaker line.
As discussed in an earlier blog posting by Art Dudley, one of the innovations of SSI 2013 was the Personal Audio Zone, staffed by SSI, where show attendees could listen to 150 different pairs of headphones, and was hoped to attract younger listeners to the show. I made two visits to the Personal Audio Zone: on the first visit, the place was nearly empty, so I recruited SSI staff member Catherine P. Lauzon to act as model for a photo.